Written by Angel Akinleye (Howard University), Student Correspondent for CET Brazil, Spring 2023
There is a vibrancy in the room. The large studio overlooks the city of São Paulo, and the beat of the music matches the rhythm of our movements. The class was a shared moment of inspiration and beauty.
CET provides students with extracurricular activities throughout the program. Our first activity was a Samba class with Erika Moura. She is a passista which is a professional samba dancer trained at a samba school. In 2015, Erika took over the renowned position of Globeleza.
Erika Moura (left) and Angel Akinleye (right)
The Globeleza is a celebration of Carnival on Brazil’s largest TV network, TV Global. Carnival is a Catholic festival that was brought to Brazil by Portuguese conquistadors pre-dating Brazilian independence. The Portuguese word Carnaval has Latin roots, carne vale, which translates to ‘farewell to the flesh.’ This is an indication of the 40-day preparation for Lent. Originally, Carnival was segregated. Now, Brazil has the largest Carnival celebration in the world, which brings people together of all backgrounds.
The Carnival broadcast began at the beginning of the 1990s. Since then, a samba dancer has been featured and decorated as the queen of carnival and Globeleza. Erika Moura recently left her title in 2022, but she is still influential in the samba world. You may have seen samba on shows like Dancing with the Stars, but did you know the music genre and the dance style are derived from people fighting to keep their culture?
During the Atlantic slave trade, people were abducted from countries today known as Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and countries in West Africa. These people became slaves and were brought to the beaches of Bahia and other port cities. Slave masters attempted to strip the enslaved people of their identity. However, they rebelled and performed religious ceremonies in secret. These ceremonies would include dancing to drums and singing. Samba is a testimony of Afro-Brazilian strength.
Painting by Carybé titled Roda de Samba
Erika is a wonderful samba teacher who made us all feel like queens. Lily Song, another CET student, stated, “I thought the class was so fun! Our teacher was so kind and welcoming and it was so fun even if it was hard, to just learn something new and let loose!” The quick steps of samba can be overwhelming at first, but we encouraged each other to feel free.
Through samba dancing, we were able to connect with Brazilian culture. We learned the traditional Carnival dance just days before the weeklong celebration. Soon people will be flooding the streets dancing and singing. Excitement fills the air. I am grateful to have had the experience of taking a samba class and being immersed in the history and culture of Brazil.
CET students and Brazilian roommates with Erika Moura